GAA Football

Down starting to take shape under Paddy Tally says Offaly boss John Maughan

Former Clare, Mayo, Fermanagh and Roscommon boss John Maughan is now in charge of Offaly. The Faithful county face Down in Newry tomorrow night. Picture by Ann McManus
Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League

THEIR National League campaign may have got off to a rocky start, but Down are now a side growing in confidence and belief under Paddy Tally according to Offaly boss John Maughan.

The Mayo native brings the Faithful to Newry tomorrow night, hoping to become the second Leinster county to leave Pairc Esler with two points following Laois’s opening day victory back on January 26.

Tally was without several key men for that game, and Down have bounced back impressively since, picking up wins over Sligo, Westmeath and Longford to leave them sitting second in Division Two.

A fourth win on-the-trot tomorrow night would edge them a step closer to promotion, and Maughan feels the Mournemen are looking good for an immediate return to the second tier.

“I suppose Down would be looking at themselves and saying ‘what the hell are we doing down here?’ - Down will be very much favourites to bounce back up to Division Two,” he said.

“They have six points from a possible eight and appear to be going quite well, very consistent, very defensive obviously from what I hear.

“That would be the nature of modern football, which is something that John Maughan wouldn’t be particularly happy with if he was a supporter, but that’s the way the game has gone.”

He added: “Down would be an improving side now, they have a wealth of experience and knowledge there and as the League progresses their system becomes very much entrenched, players become comfortable with it.

“That opening night [v Laois] is a long time ago now - they’ve had several weeks of training in the interim and good teams will drive on in that period. It’s a very tough assignment for us.”

After picking up their first win of the campaign against Carlow last weekend, Offaly travel to Newry in good spirits.

And while they may start as underdogs tomorrow night, Maughan is quick to point to the unpredictable nature of Division Three this year.

“Every team is capable of beating each other every weekend – it’s kind of bizarre in a way when you look at other results every Sunday after our game and invariably you’re lifting your eyes saying ‘my God, I didn’t see that coming’. It’s all over the place.

“For us, it was just relief [to get the win over Carlow] because we had managed to butcher the two games before. We were leading comfortably in the second half against Westmeath and Longford, and it was deflating to only take one point from those two games.”

Maughan sprung something of a surprise when he returned to the inter-county arena last summer following a decade-long exile, and found that the chasm between the leading counties and the rest is continuing to widen.

Therefore, he says, chances of potential giant-killing acts come Championship time are decreasing year on year.

“I was involved with Mayo in 1995, I took over when they had been relegated to Division Three and we came within a hop of a ball of winning an All-Ireland eight or nine months later.

“I was involved with Clare coming out of Division Four where we went on to win a Munster title within 18 months… those fairytales are over. Those shocks and surprises, because of the way the game has gone now, are going to be few and far between.”

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